On a random whim, I went to the zoo. Zoos are already sad but on days with a high of 25 degrees Fahrenheit and snow on the ground, even worse.
The animals seemed slow and tired and most of them were sequestered away indoors.
I spent a lot of time in the elephant barn because it was warm and elephants are graceful and just emit this wisdom from their all watching black eyes. But maybe I am making this up.
They were in a space way too tight for their mammoth frames. Bars cut their bodies in half from my view. One elephant, Tasha was alone because she was rumored to be a bit of a “bully” according to the zookeeper.
And I thought: I’d be pissed as fuck too if I was trapped in a place that toned down my bigness and fed me stupid carrots and kids gawked at me and I really wasn’t into the other elephants I was around.
And then I thought: maybe that’s why I’m pissed in some ways too. Because there is something wild and weird and spontaneous inside that I keep shut up. Maybe we both just want to be free, maybe we just need more space. Maybe we’re not bullies after all.
I left the exhibit with a heavier chest and heart but it helped me to really see something I’ve been dancing around my entire life: the cost of not being free. Of trying to downplay my bigness.
I don’t know my next move. I’m learning right now to just be with this question and to open up to the wild, sometimes illogical impulses that seem to be calling to me.
May you find space to let yourself be as big and wild and messy and you as possible. Especially in a world that rewards Good Girls and Quiet, Non-Complaining Black and Brown People.
“An uneasy reaction to the word Goddess is common among women. Thousands of years of repression, hostility, and conditioning against a Divine Mother have made a deep impression on us. We’ve been conditioned to shrink back from the Sacred Feminine, to fear it, to think of it as sinful, even to revile it. And it would take a while for me to deprogram that reaction, to unpack the word and realize that in the end, Goddess is just a word. It simply means the divine in female form.”
-Sue Monk Kidd, Dance of the Dissident Daughter
I used to think the only way one could incorporate the goddess into your life was to don clothes of the white toga variety, be a woman who wore flower crowns in the dead of winter and frolic around in green pastures a la Julie Andrews.
I have written about how I had to face some difficult truths about how I shallowly tried to embrace the Divine Feminine (here, here, and here) in what I called my Divine Feminine Fallacy.
But, how does one incorporate more Sacred Feminine energy into their lives beyond a t-shirt screen-printed with the word Goddess Is Me in Helvetica Bold or creative hashtags on Instagram? How do we go far beyond pure commercialism, “buying” our goddess energy as it were, instead of being in it? Learning about it?
How we start to unwind from the conditioning we have all faced in terms of this word and its associations?
There are times I fear the we are having a reoccurring “girl power” moment, one where we shallowly praise women and barely graze the deep-seated misogyny that undergirds most of our society. We make peace signs and yell GURL POWA and call it a day.
I want more. I want this damn world to be transformed by this energy. And part of that change starts with us.
This is by no means an exhaustive or total list, but I hope it can be a guide for you, Goddess. I really do.
Explore and Accept What You Truly Feel When You Hear the Word Goddess
Do you cringe? Sideways laugh? I remember having to stifle a major orb shifting eye roll when I would first hear the word goddess. Granted, I was living in Portland, Oregon AKA Land of the Rainy Earth Mother. I was working with a holistic health counselor who was based in NYC and when she started incorporating goddess stories into her telephone work with me, I was like Et tu, Brute?
I was a girl who played basketball, went to military school, a black woman who was often expected to be tougher than who I was. I heard the word “goddess” used to describe beautiful women, but could not see how this word actually related to my day to day existence.
Now, I see that my inner discomfort at hearing this word was revealing some deep seated stuff. The ways I felt estranged from fully inhabiting my femininity. The ways in which I was raised to see God purely in masculine terms. The ways in which I equated anything associated with the Feminine with a certain brand of weakness and silliness despite my feminist leanings.
So, be honest about how the word makes you feel. Write it out. Talk with your friends about. Dig deep. Does it feel gimmicky? Do you worry your priest will find you in your new neighborhood and dole out 500 Hail Marys (how ironic) if you were to use it? Sit with your feelings. Notice what emerges. Live the answers.
2. Explore Your Own Cultural Path of the Goddess and read some books
Part of the reason I was a little disenchanted with the Rainy Earth Mother Goddesses of Portland, OR was how some of these women seemed to be picking out goddesses to “invoke” like they were putting together a celestial grab-bag: A little Kali over here. A dash of Brigid here. A smattering of Athena and Hera over there. And when I heard there was a small group of uninitiated women who were worshipping the deities Oya an Osun, I was even more annoyed.
This is not to say one cannot study or learn from goddesses that do not necessarily “belong” to your culture. I will forever have a crush on Greek mythology, I love the stories of Amateratsu and Guanyin and Isis.
As a second-generation Yoruba woman, I know that my lineage contains stories of Oba, Osun, Oya, and Yemoja to name a few. They are not necessarily goddesses, but they are divine and they are female. Not every black woman in the diaspora has the gift of knowing where she came from, but there are many goddesses to know (Abiola Abrams has an awesome starter pack of Goddess Cards only featuring those of black/African descent!)
Still, I am clear that I do not worship any of these deities. I do not invoke them or make altars in ways that are solely for the initiated. Perhaps one day this may change, but as of now, I am okay with being a student of the goddess.
What’s your lineage and what are the stories of feminine deities that are located in your own history? How do those stories make you feel today?
When I first started reading about the goddess, I wanted to ape the journeys of women like Sue Monk Kidd or Meggan Watterson or Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I didn’t think my journey was all that interesting. I needed to travel to an ashram, become some sort of priestess, have the same exact synchronous mystical experiences as these women did.
I could not be a tall blerd* reading Dance of the Dissident Daughter on the R train and journaling in 54 cent composition books.
No, that was not intense enough.
But, really, the Goddess is wherever we are. Some find a closer relation to her by examining the demographics of their churches. Some find her by getting in touch with their bodies though a Wednesday gentle yoga class. Some find her when they are walking home from a party and take care to notice their breath and the ways they are connected to all that is life. Some find her by exploring their sexuality or reading female empowerment stories to their grandchildren of any gender.
There is no special certification or pre-requisite for exploring the Goddess. No timeline or six-week course. You don’t have to wear a toga or change religions. You can be who you are, committing to explore the Goddess in a way that works for you. You can be any gender and any age.
You can be you.
In my gradual acceptance of who I am, I have been able to host goddess groups with willing (yay!) friends, performed goddess ceremonies twice this summer, and last year I went to Nigeria FOR FREE to study (but what else?) the goddess in the form of Oya, Osun, and Yemoja. I have talked to strangers about the assumed gender of God and about once a month, some person I barely know calls me a goddess.
That girl on the R train who was aching for a deeper connection to the Sacred Feminine would be so proud. But, I didn’t know HOW any of this would occur. I just wanted it.
And here it is. Right on time.
I wonder what your goddess journey will look like for you.
“There is one thing that, when cultivated and regularly practiced, leads to deep spiritual intention, to peace, to mindfulness and clear comprehension, to vision and knowledge, to a happy life here and now, and to the culmination of wisdom and awakening. And what is that one thing? It is mindfulness centered on the body.”
The Buddha, from the Satipatthana Sutta
What Happens: Your very close friend of forever tells you with happiness that she is engaged to a Good Guy.
What You Want to Feel: Exuberant joy and effervescence for her good fortune.
What YOU Do Feel: Bitter, slow churning anger in your gut. A heavy dollop of sadness that coats your entire chest. A severe jealously that you are 100% sure is blaring from your eyes and forced smile.
What You Do: You hug and congratulate your friend. Joke about ugly bridal dresses all while entertaining a raucous inner dialogue of Why Am I Such a Bitch? Why Can’t I Feel Happy for My Friend? What is Wrong With Me?
And maybe you go home and you try to shake these bad emotions from your mind as if they are raindrops along an umbrella. You reason: you should be happy. He’s smart and deep and treats your friend with grace. You love your friend.
Still the feelings persist no matter how much you talk yourself out of them. They follow you from bridal shower to wedding day, only dulling with time but never truly moving.
We all have feelings that seem to land on us from out of nowhere. Emotions that are ways away from what we want or expect to feel. A gleeful happiness when a colleague announces they didn’t get a prestigious grant. A welling of grief when we say goodbye to that one really toxic friend. Comparing ourselves to supermodels even when we know it’ll only depress us.
Sometimes, I think we forget that feelings are not milk.
They have no shelf-life, no labels detailing how many servings to ingest. They don’t stay neatly inside a container.
Emotions have a wisdom of their own–even when it feels like quite the opposite.
In our feelings-averse, feminine-hating society, emotions get a bad rap. Especially the strong ones. Especially the strong ones when experienced by women: Jealousy. Anger. Grief. Frustration. Raucous joy. Sexual abandon.
We are told to “calm down”. To “think positive”.
(As if that shit always works, as if it is healthy and wise to stuff down our most intense emotions with twee platitudes of JUST BE HAPPY.)
What we not told is that feelings are truth. We don’t need to act on them, express them (like, yeah, no need to tell your newly engaged friend I HATE YOU BITCH AND WISH IT WAS MEEEEEE!!!!!!). We are not told that once we began to greet our feelings with curiosity, openness, and a hello, we start to learn and engage in the world more honestly.
So, how do we do that?
One way I have been learning to engage with my feelings in a real, tangible way is dancing.
I don’t slip into choreography the minute I have a feeling, cuz, well, I do need to keep a job and my students might be just a bit confused if I started to gyrate in the midst of a lesson on writing closing arguments.
(One of my favorite tasks in the world is making themed playlists.)
I put on my music. Loud. If my boyfriend is sleeping soundly or I am away from home, then I slip on my ear buds. And I move.
I got this technique from Mama Gena and Jess Grippo, two women who know that our feelings are nothing to run from or interrogate away.
When I first started Dancing with My Feelings, I felt all kinds of silly. Sometimes when my boyfriend would amble out of the bedroom all bleary eyed to go to the bathroom, I would freeze like I was caught doing something indecent.
Sometimes we forgot that we are not just heads attached to clouds. Emotions are called “feelings” for a really good reason: they show up in our bodies. This is part of the reason we try and run away from them, the discomfort is not solely located in our racing thoughts and attitudes, but in our chests, stomachs, shoulders, backs, and jaws.
Dancing helps me to move with the feeling. To give it a language beyond reasoning and meditation. I let my hips circle through envy and my arms snake their way through confusion. I get on my knees and pound the floor with my anger in beat to a headbanger.
We are not taught to do this. We are taught to bottle up and be Appropriate, to be a Nice Girl, and to pretend that all we have what Mama Gena calls a “vanilla emotional life”.
I say no more.
When I hear of another unarmed black person shot, I dance out my feelings of powerlessness and fear. When I am mired in creative self-doubt, I take a break to shimmy. When anxiety threatens to dull my message, I close my office door and I dance.
I think dancing with our feelings is especially important for black women and women in color in general. We have to police our emotions even more vigilantly in a racist society that refuses to see us as full human beings.
Dancing can help us be truthful with ourselves, to give ourselves a gift of deep honesty.
And usually, something beautiful happens: my feelings reveal their wisdom to me. They tell me of my deepest insecurities, they speak of actions I can actively take, they assure me that I am still worthy of love and celebration.
Sometimes I end up crying. Or laughing hysterically. Or I sit in a quiet self-satisfied glow.
Everything is welcome. I may look crazy but I feel so free I don’t really give a shit.
The next time you experience a feeling you “shouldn’t” be feeling: dance that shit out. It will feel counterintuitive at first but whatever your body is called to do, let it do. You don’t have to best Ciara or even dance on beat.
If you want to sink to the floor in despair and shake your wrist limply, because you feel like a loser compared to all your “30 Under 30” friends, do that. If you want to twerk in front of your hallway mirror after seeing your ex all hugged up on someone new, do it. Write big and loopy in a journal in blood red ink. Wind up the windows in your car and scream like a banshee.
Sometimes life just hurts. And the temptation is to close off, armor, numb, protect. We are encouraged by our modern society to do this in all kinds of ways:
don’t text the person back right away.
brag about how many fucks you don’t give.
filter away your imperfections and pretend that everything is okay.
And then there’s life’s inevitable heartbreaks, many of which are out of our direct control. there are still black kids dying for no reason except a world that says their lives are without meaning. there are the never actualized desires of our friends and family.
how do we stay open when there is so much pain in our own hearts and in the world?
I’ve never been someone who was good at not feeling. I was the crybaby of homeroom 18 who hated being picked last for kickball and couldn’t hold back my tears if someone made fun of me.
when i got into a fight in fifth grade (i accidentally hit a boy in the head with a red bouncy ball during a game of keep-away and he called me a bitch), i was crying hot tears as I swung for his head.
I quickly learned that no one likes a crybaby. especially a dark-skinned black one. girls who looked like me are supposed to be neck-craning, eye-rolling, lips smacking tigresses who reduce people to dust with venomous tongue lashings.
black girls like me are not supposed to cry, to be hurt, to feel anything but rage.
One of the best things that has occurred on this journey to be whole is that I am releasing these old stories and locating my own path.
even if it means being kind of alone.
I used to never cry at movies, training myself to steel away tears when the violins hit by balling my hands into fists.
a couple of weeks ago i cried when I saw Moana. (that grandma part, man…)
I’ve cried on public benches, during graduate classes, in my office. I close the door and I let it all come out.
i am a contemporary Mary Magdalene.
I allow myself to feel and look at my tears with an air of compassion.
I have been thinking of Kuan Yin as I embark deeper on this path of integrating my full emotional landscape.
As someone very invested in studying the Divine Feminine in any way I can find Her, I am always on the lookout for a good goddess story. I cannot (and will not) “invoke” various goddesses like I am picking from a grab bag, but I can remain open to their stories for inspiration.
“She [Kuan-Yin] is not a goddess, for there are no such figures in Buddhism–although some may call her a folk goddess. Nor is she a buddah, one who has attained perfect enlightenment. Rather Kuan-Yin is a bodhisattva, someone who stands at the threshold of enlightenment; she is called a celestial bodhisattva, the highest rank of these semi-divine beings, for she stands as close as it is possible to heaven itself…she remains perpetually a bodhisvatta, rather than progressing into utter illumination, because she made a vow not to attain enlightenment while a single person on earth suffered.”
We are about a full month away from the Spring Equinox (March 20th), though honestly, this week in Pittsburgh has had all the feeling of summer.
I didn’t have to wear my Michelin-Man winter jacket once.
I’m going to miss winter this year, a fact no doubt helped by the mild temperatures and limited amount of dirty snow accruing on the edges of sidewalks. Each year, I fall a little bit more in love with this slower, inward turning phase of the year. I truly believe we are meant to heed the seasons.
It doesn’t mean I go need to go into full-on hibernate mode in the Winter or race down the streets nude when Spring arrives (though, wouldn’t it be nice?) I just notice where energy is nudging and follow it’s flow in a way that makes sense for my life.
It’s actually quite fun.
Right now, I can feel the energy prickling the air as Spring approaches. I’m an Aries so Spring is kinda my time. Velvety green buds are appearing on trees. I want to run for no discernible reason. Creative ideas that I’ve spent all winter mulling over are starting to yawn and stretch awake.
This winter has been one of great inner awareness and healing for me. I send a hearty thank you to all who have made it possible.
How did I explicitly slow down (even just a little) this Winter?
In small and big ways. I curbed back some writing project goals. Focused on the slow curl of each rep during workout days. When my ten minute naps turned into two hour slumbers, I didn’t have a panic attack (this would’ve been my main mode last Winter, for sure). I went to restorative yoga sessions with my partner. I have started to actively pencil in daydream time into my calendar where I make weird art or lip sync to 90s alternative rock.
Slowing down made me feel more grounded and real. It reminded me that in a society that prides itself on depletion and busyness, it is okay to take a more human pace and let my body rest.
What is one thing I want to see born in the Spring and how did I use the Winter season to bring it about?
One thing I wanted to see in Spring was a deeper sense of self-love. I knew that I had my sticky places with food, money, and time management. I knew that it was going to take steady dedication to bring healing to these areas.
I’m not quite so good at doing “one thing”. It’s the Aries thing again…
For food, I enrolled in When Food Is Your Mother to learn more about my sticky own emotional eating habits as related to attachment theory. It sounds amazing and totally unlike anything I’ve ever read before.
For money, I extended my six-month clothing fast to a year, so now I have until August 15th. (Okay, I may have bought a beautiful burgundy vintage cape at a friend’s clothing swap for 50 cents, but other than that, no clothes shopping for this girl!)
And for time management, I look at my Happiness Planner (love, love, love it) each day and consistently remind myself, “I can balance my duties with ease.” Sometimes that is about all I can manage for time management BUT, I have been a lot less procrastinating than last Winter, so I’ll take it!
What is one daily or weekly practice of nurturing I practiced?
I spent a lot of my winter months solidifying my self-care morning regimen in a concrete way to show that I value myself. As of now, I meditate for ten minutes, say hello to my late grandmother, read affirmations aloud, and stretch for five minutes. It’s not much but it truly shapes my day in life-preserving ways.
I saw how easy it was to not take care of my Self. To put my to-do lists above it. To deem self- care frivolous and self-indulgent.
But, then I remind myself: My world and those in it benefit from my living my best life. And this includes the basics of self-care.
Sometimes I had to stretch at bedtime. Sometimes I read my affirmations in between classes via my phone. Sometimes I only got to meditate for five minutes.
Every little bit mattered. And I feel so much more steady in my self-care path because of the twenty minutes I spend each day tuning in and taking care.
How did I bring more fiery energy into my Winter?
Lotsa time in any hot tub I had the pleasure of being around. The weekly Burlesque Goddess class at Vitality Bellydance. Frequent visits to People’s Indian Food on Penn Ave for their lunchtime buffet.
How has your Winter been my friends? Is there anything you want to linger with before we greet the Spring Equinox on March 20th? What major things did you learn about yourself this season?
Learning about sex as a girl is usually a curvy path. Some are brought to the realizations by the harshness of abuse, while others are nudged into the sexual world via playground tales and awkward sex-ed classes in junior high.
A woman is taught that her sexuality does not belong to her. It is part of her value, yes, but not if she owns it. Not if she is proud of it outside of cultural allowances.
I was always the “good girl” who was close friends with the Promiscuous Girl, the School Ho throughout my young adult life. I longed for the sexual confidence of these women and I was often annoyed at the boys who would point blank ask me about the sexual lives of my friends. Usually these same boys had similar if not higher numbers of sexual partners, but the double standard played firmly in their favor:
My friends were sluts and they were just, well, boys.
It’s an old story.
But, in looking at the Divine Feminine Fallacy, there was no way I could write about unearthing my true experience as a woman without giving mention to female sexuality and sensuality.
As much as I sprouted quite libertine airs about female sexuality, I saw that there were solid stumbling blocks to my true acceptance of sexual pleasure and sensual expression as a right.
It is not easy to be a woman who speaks about female desire openly, but what was my own story besides the “wing-woman” of my sexually adventurous friends?
I started going to burlesque shows in about 2009 and quickly fell in love: the pageantry, the comedic antics, the body sovereignty of each woman who took the stage.
I took a couple of burlesque classes myself, started playing around this different personas and characters in my long mirror in the privacy of my home.
Around this time period, hip hop songs featuring the talents of strippers started to become more popular. Former strippers were landing reality show spots, hanging out with Drake, teaching twerking classes.
Why was I hesitant to celebrate these women and their obvious talents?
One of my friends was a stripper throughout her twenties. She had the kind of natural charisma CEO wanna-bes pay thousands to acquire. I was always riveted by her stories, her unashamed and unadorned ambition in a world not exactly as glamorous and fun as T-Pain would have us believe.
But, in my mind, there was a bit of a difference between the world of burlesque and stripping, one that, yes, had much to do with the “male gaze” (a term I’m not always sure I really get all the time) but more so with what ideas of society I had ingested about female sexuality.
I was dipping my toes in Respectability Pond.
And this did not solely cover the Strippers vs. Burlesque camp. When I peeled back the layers, I started to see I had some other ideas about female sexuality that were hindering my life.
Because I hardly saw women who looked like me inhabiting their sensuality and sexuality being celebrated, there was part of me that wondered if it was okay to find myself sexy.
Sexiness in the public imagination was starting to look like an onslaught of half open mouths and fiercely penetrating (lol) gazes. All without a pore in sight.
Was this sexy?
What is sexy to me?
What would feminine sensuality and sexuality look like if it wasn’t used to sell cheeseburgers? If women were taught that sex was beautiful and full of pleasure? If we were taught to see our diverse bodies with pride? If there wasn’t a rape culture and epidemic levels of childhood sexual abuse? If our mothers did not tell us, “Good girls don’t ___________.”
These are the questions I am asking myself.
I know…I ask myself lots of questions.
I seek to be fully free woman.
And part of getting free means revising and sometimes chucking out all the mess that clouds who we truly are.
I cannot leave sexuality out of this conversation for sensual peace is part of the who the divine Feminine is. Ownership and celebration of female sexuality are some of the major hallmarks of goddesses like Osun, Venus, and Freya.
Here’s to a new kind of sex-ed.
Art from top to bottom:
Mickalene Thomas, I thought you said you were leaving, 2006
MICKALENE THOMAS, Portrait of Mama Bush 1, 2010
MICKALENE THOMAS, A Little Taste Outside of Love, 2007
Mickalene Thomas, You’re Gonna Give Me the Love I Need, 2010
“In search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.”
“Enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true.”
“Spiritual bypass” is a term often used in circles where people are seeking a higher truth. Be they New Age spiritualists, pagans, mystical Christians or an interesting amalgamation of all these spiritualities or none, the term describes a certain type of seeker who is utilizing spirituality to ignore the real-life issues of their existence.
We’ve all witnessed these people. They’re the chorus of “WE JUST NEED LOOOOVE!!!!” in the face of economic disparity and misogyny and Donald Trump. They are the “friend” who replies to your grief over a recent loss with pleas to “just be positive”.
Sometimes we are even “those people”, dishing out feel-good quotes and pat advice like we are human Hallmark cards.
It’s easy to see that this shit does not work in hindsight, but not always simple to catch spiritual bypass as it is occurring in real-time.
One of the stickiest places that we often wish to bypass are the stories that live inside our families of origin–the painful patterns, the hypocrisy, the let’s-just-take-the-Sears-portrait-and-ignore-our-growing-dysfunction-ness, the weirdness, and just the day-to-day realities of familial existence.
As a seeker eager to dive into all things Divine Feminine, I was all about reading about the “Great Mother” archetype and the goddess worshiping cultures of old but I was consistently passing a blind eye to what actually was occurring within my own matrilineal line.
Without even realizing it, I was jumping over my life and seeking external opinions about what the culture had taught me about being a woman.
But, where do we learn most about what it means to be woman than within the lives and stories of our mothers, aunts, sisters, and grandmothers?
It is these women who have taught me what is possible, what to believe about sex, my body, money, men, female friendships, relationships, self-care, food, parenting, femininity/masculinity, expression, success, God and all that I call Life.
They were my first teachers.
No matter what I profess to believe now, it is their opinions that are more often than not running the show. And until I sat down to examine what they taught me, no “Divine Mother” was going to redirect and “fix” my current life.
Of course, these women have taught me all kinds of life-affirming lessons, it is not just a barrage of negativity. And they teach not only with words and deep conversations–but within the tiniest details of how they live.
Lately, I have been sifting through these lessons and asking myself some deep questions:
What were the actual lessons passed down implicitly and explicitly in my mother-line?
What are the lessons I wish to live? What are the beliefs I need to let go of? And what are the beliefs I am actually living each day?
When does “living differently” from these lessons feel like I am abandoning my mother-line?
The work I am completing here is constant and requires a dedication to life-long learning and shedding–these early beliefs are oftentimes not easy to discard.
They are literally in our blood.
But, I’ve started to notice something in my search.
I used to think the sifting through these stories required me to make a particular family member wrong or to assign blame.
Now I see that this search is all about integrity and awareness. It’s about truly realizing what is mine and what is not. It’s about facing reality as it is and not utilizing spirituality as yet another fogged up mirror, a clever way to obscure truth.
I continue this search, this investigation. I see the patterns–both gracious and limiting. I keep asking questions and sticking around for the answers. In doing so, my Divine Feminine life has a more grounded texture to it, for it is now weaved into my actual life.
My eyes open more and more each day.
What do you think you would find in sifting through your mother’s garden? Is it scary to think that you may just locate who you really are?
There are sore places, places around the chest cavity that carry wounds invisible to the human eye. They are the areas we experience what feels like a tender squeezing that never lets up, a constant dull ache.
I have many of those places and when I was first longing to be “reunited with the Divine Feminine”, these are areas I tried my best to wish away and ignore.
I love that there is so much talk these days decorated with words like goddess, sisterhood, feminist, sacred feminine, intuition, Earth…I love that yoni eggs and vaginal steaming are de rigeur experiences in the quirky woman of color experience. There are even t-shirts.
It’s kinda like the 1960s but devoid of a lot of that special brand of hippy-dude sexism.
One day it’d be learning all about moon cycles and women in leadership. The next week it would be “reclaiming the wisdom of my pussy” and reproductive rights, a month later and I’d be studying feminine Jungian archetypes with a side of feminist blogs.
I was thirsty for this knowledge (five years in military school with a majority male population has a plethora of effects) and felt like I didn’t have time enough in the day to catch up on the ways that patriarchal culture ignored the experience of women.
And the ways I was not taught this in all my years of formal education for more than a nanosecond.
But, alas, I wanted more. While, I am still learning and seeking and now know the names and backstories of a dozen or so demi-goddesses, I still hadn’t felt a true, soulful connection to this idea of the “divine Feminine” in my own life. Intellectually, I understood that society’s dismissal of the feminine had wide-reaching negative effects: perpetuating misogyny, reinforcing patriarchal hierarchies, fracturing our earth’s ecological balance, assigning feminine qualities under the “weak as fuck” umbrella (just to name a few…)
However, at the heart level, I wasn’t feeling a true integration of all the knowledge I was gaining. After being gracefully led to transformational coach Bethany Webster’s work, I started to ponder my own Divine Feminine stumbling blocks even more deeply. Why was I still living life in ways that were obviously at odds with this new goddess knowledge?
Hard questions sometimes beget answers we’d rather not see.
And I had to come face to face with the ways I was hurt by the Feminine in my own life, the ways in which I felt estranged and was simultaneously estranging myself from this energy.
It was much easier to read books about the Divine Feminine than to deal with the ways my life spells out a deep-seated suspicion and disavowal of the feminine.
Easier to love women in the abstract than it was to really deal with the ways I still saw women as competitors.
Simple to exalt burlesque and express libertine views than deal with how I had issues with certain expressions of female sexuality.
Easier (okay, not really easy…) to dismiss my anger than really be honest about how much “white feminism” makes my blood boil.
And SO, SO much more undemanding to write about The Goddess or The Great Mother than it was to deal with my own matrilineal line, the stories I have inherited as a daughter and a sister.
My word for 2017 is Balance, therefore, while I still consider myself a student eager to learn more about the Feminine in a multitude of ways, I also want to do the deeper work of uncovering the ways I still am estranged from the feminine in my personal life.
I know I am not alone in this. This strong want to go deeper, this need to keep asking why, and this desire to be fully integrated with feminine energies in real time.
I am not a surface person.
Of course, the work in going deeper extends beyond a blog post (or even several hundred posts), it is a constant re-working and re-integrating that I seek.
Everyone’s story around the Feminine will be the different.
I have always considered myself a feminist, even before I knew the word. But, I cannot ignore the ways in which I am hurting and hurt around the Feminine. To do so would be to pay mere lip service to a force that needs to be resurrected in a huge way and wouldn’t be in line with what I envision a true heroine’s journey to be.
Avoiding the hurt places is easy until it’s not. And I’m at the place where I no longer desire easy and where I know that integration starts wherever I am at.
Here’s to truly meeting the Goddess, messy as it may sometimes look and sound.
Here’s to uncovering and healing the divine feminine fallacies of our own lives.
In 2012, encouraged by a friend, I ordered the book Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd. As if sent by the ghosts of Amazon sisters of years past, the book arrived within a day of purchasing without any addition of rush ordering by me.
I read that book in about five subway rides between Atlantic Terminal and the S79 bus stop in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I felt like someone had finally put a language to the questions and longings I had been entertaining since I was a little girl about God, spirituality, and being a woman under the patriarchy.
Yes, the book is written by the same white woman who wrote the Secret Life of Bees. Yes, this book completely changed the trajectory of how I viewed the world and my place in it.
Yes, I love it.
I never felt like a good patriarchal daughter completely. I was forever uneasy about all the Hims and Hes in the Bible and I have had some sort of feminist bend since I was around nine years old. But, I did fall in line in many ways. I eschewed bell hooks for Cornel West in college and spent way too many hours agonizing over food choices and how my body appealed.
But, I think there comes a time in almost every woman’s life where she wonders who she truly is. When she peels back the layers of who she has been told to be and starts to ask her own questions and make her way along a path that she makes her self. She gathers “sisters” along for the ride and may even become a leader.
Sometimes this inquiry starts in the rebellious teenage years or within the illumination of the post-college era. Sometimes it happens after a major life change like when the kids leave the house (finally), or the partner wanders away, or she births a new life of her own.
My “goddess journey” started when I was 23 and fresh out of the US Merchant Marine Academy. Without the constant structure of the school around me and my peers and living in a new place, I found myself on a zig-zagging labyrinthine path toward true self-knowledge.
And not just self-knowledge and embodiment that would solely serve my own inner questions. I really honestly wanted to know how I could most be of help to others.
For awhile, I tried aping other women’s goddess journeys. I contemplated visiting distant lands and completing my own eat-pray-love jaunts. I wondered if I should seek out certain gurus or invest in a bounty of white robes.
It all felt sort of disingenuous and weird. Most of the women who were writing most prominently about goddess journeys were worlds away from my experience. They were white, older, usually departing a Christian faith, married, and subscribed primarily to the Greek/Roman pantheon of goddesses. Or sometimes they were of color but their definintions of “feminine” felt so stringent and a little retroactive.
And sometimes it all seemed way too surface to me. “Goddess” has become a sort of marquee word in the last couple of years and is reaching Instagram ubiquity but quickly being washed out and turned into yet another commodity.
While, I learned much from these women and am grateful for their truths, I really wanted to see my own experience reflected. The answer was simple and but difficult:
I had to be share my own experiences, own my truths, and be honest about what I have found. I had to start where I was with what I had. I had to blunder ahead and create my own goddess path.
My goddess journey has been made up with re-writing the story of my body, of questioning the ways in which I have been taught to see and relate to other women, learning what sensuality and sexuality mean to me, of embracing pleasure and bliss and other feminine principles of being, and of looking at the patriarchal wounds that have occurred within my own family system.
It has been that and so much more.
I have had weird fucking Jungian style dreams and cried while staring into a woman’s eyes and lit a candle to the Black Maria in Spain and have been blessed by Osun priestesses.
I am still on my journey and as such, don’t have some neat, coherent storyline to pass along. I just have my truths.
I will use this space to speak the multi-farious levels of what I have learned and am still learning.